Today’s news:

Business owners challenge go-ahead on Willets Point project

An attorney for a group of Willets Point business owners argued Wednesday afternoon that a state Supreme Court judge in Manhattan should revisit a prior decision that allows the city’s $3 billion plan to redevelop the 62-acre space to move forward.

The city contends that the decision should stand in part because it is complying with all necessary review processes, and because it believes the motion to revisit the case is without merit.

Michael Gerrard, attorney for Willets Point United, laid out his case to Judge Joan Madden that she should vacate her approval of the proposal based on the city’s April 2008 environmental assessment in light of new information related to the plan.

Gerrard argued that the city has not undertaken sufficient review of the traffic impacts its plan to build a 20-acre first phase of the project will have on area streets. He said the city never looked at what happens if final approvals for two ramps onto the Van Wyck Expressway cannot be secured, which the city promised Madden it would obtain before building the project. The state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration are currently weighing whether to green-light the ramps.

“What the city now has done is say, ‘We don’t have approval for the ramps, but we’re going to go ahead and do the first phase anyway,’” Gerrard told Madden Tuesday in court. “The city nowhere has done an analysis of what happens if phase one moves forward and the ramps are not approved.”

The city counters that it should be allowed to proceed with first phase construction because it believes it has undertaken all necessary environmental review processes, and that for Madden to revisit a prior decision would cast uncertainty on all future public development projects in the city.

“The city can’t be asked to sit and wait and not do anything when it has determined that the phase one impacts without the ramps are equal to or less than they would be with the ramps,” City Law Department counsel Chris Reo said in court Tuesday, later adding, “By Mr. Gerrard’s admission, the record could never be closed, and the government could never have the certainty it needs when pursuing an action.”

Reo also said that the motion is not appropriate as he believes prior case law does not support revisiting such a case unless a significant “injustice” has been carried out.

Madden did not issue a ruling during the hearing, or announce the date of the next court appearance.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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